The [b]JUNIOR[/b] event finished today in Korea. The final stage was a first-rate one, with the battle for the medals taking place between the home team Korea, the women superpowers Norway and Russia, and the new sensation on the women’s side Montenegro. It is really remarkable how Montenegro is suddenly the dominant one among the former Yugoslav republics in the women’s competitions. As I have commented in recent time, their senior women’s team has been doing extremely well in EHF competition and will be a serious contender in the EURO 2010 later this year.
In the end, Korea was the team among the top four who failed to win a medal. After losing a semifinal to Russia (26-30) there was considerable hope that a bronze medal could be won as a consolation. But Montenegro, who had lost its semifinal to Norway with big numbers (16-26), bounced back and won the bronze match with the smallest of margins (24-23). The consolation for Korea is the unanimous praise they received as organizers. ‘The best ever’ was a common remark!
The final was won in superb style by Norway. After the convincing win in the semi-final, last year’s European champions just pulled away from 8-8 to 13-8, and then in the end the margin was nine goals for 30-21. For information regarding the All-Star team, see this: http://www.ihf.info//MediaCenter/News/NewsDetails/tabid/130/Default.aspx?ID=392 Top scorer was Nathalie Hagman from Sweden with a total of 75 goals.
In the placement matches, Hungary grabbed 5th by beating Netherlands 29-28 in a match between two teams that are normally strong in women’s handball. Germany won 7th place through 31-30 against a Swedish team that had come into the Main round with zero points, after having had the bad luck of contending with both Russia and Montenegro in the group play.
Apart from Korea, Brazil was the only other non-European team in the Main round where they finished last, i.e., in 12th place. This means that PanAmerica will be back down from four to the mandatory three teams as an allocation next time, two years from now. This must have been a bit frustrating, because a very strong performance by Brazil in the group play was followed by three straight defeats in the Main round.
The [b]YOUTH [/b]event will get underway on Monday in the Dominican Republic, who has the unenviable task as (relatively inexperienced) organizers to follow directly after Korea. We wish them good luck! Here the number of participants is 20 rather than 24, with the Europeans outnumbered 9 to 11.
On the A/B half, it would be a conservative guess that the perennial powers of Denmark, Norway, Germany and Netherlands will be able to do well, with perhaps Angola as a ‘dark horse’. The home team got, as is customary, a favorable seed and might be able to contend for a quarterfinal spot.
On the C/D half, there is likely to be a strong fight for the two top spots in one group among France, Hungary and Sweden. The other group seems to be the ‘group of death’, with Korea and Brazil defending the honor of the non-Europeans against Russia and Spain. I will not stick my neck out and predict the outcome of that group….